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lo support of election, in the unconditional sense, I will now bring forward several arguments, which to my own mind have appeared conclusive.
1. The scriptures put election or predestination before effectual calling; and this they appear to do by design, as being their natural order: “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” Rom. viii. 30. Men are here represented as first predestinated, and then called; and their being called into the kingdom of Christ is the very thing to which they were predestinated. In the context of the passage just quoted, God is said to predestinate sinful men to be conformed to the image of his Son. In the same connexion the apostle speaks of them who love God, as called according to his purpose ; which not only im. plies that his purpose precedes their calling, but also that their calling is the very thing to which his purpose related.
In the beginning of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians he reminds them, that God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy. He seems desirous they should know, that they were chosen unto holi. ness, and not on account of any thing of this nature foreseen to exist in them. The same view of the matter is given in that declaration of the Savior, to which I have already had occasion to refer : All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. They appear to be given to the Son, in order to their coming to him, and not because it was foreseen they would come.
If predestination is the purpose of God to renew hearts which are entirely depraved, it cannot be based on any goodness of character. What can be more absurd than to say, it is owing to some goodness in the sinner, that God determines to originate goodness in him; or to say, that in consideration of the life that remains in him, or which is seen to be reviving, God determines to raise him from the dead? Had predestination been the purpose of God to pardon the penitent, it might be proper to term it conditional ; but since it is the purpose of God to give repentance to those whose character is entirely sinful, there can be no conditions on which it can be grounded.
2. Goodness of character is explicitly declared not to have been the reason why those who are saved were, in distinction from others, cho. sen to salvation. · The nation of Israel were repeatedly admonished, not to ascribe it to their superior righteousness, that they were chosen to enjoy the distinguished privilege of being the people of the only living and true God. Deut. vii. 7, 8, and ix. 4–6. Ezek. xvi. 148! Paul, after having spoken of the small number of true worshipers who were found in Israel in the days of the prophet Elijah, thus speaks of his own time; “ Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” In the next verse he makes us understand what he intended by the election of grace: “And if by grace, it is no more of works ; otherwise grace is no more grace. Rom. xi. 5, 6. Can this be anything less than an assertion, that the works of the elect were in no sense the cause of their election? This is plainly the sentiment he designs to communicate, in what he says concerning Jacob's being chosen in distinction from Esau: “ For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works,
but of him that calleth.” To show that the purpose of God, in merci. fully distinguishing Jacob from Esau, was not originated by any fore. sight of the existence of a better character in Jacob, it is particularly noted that the choice was made before they had done either good or evil; and then we are expressly told it was not of works, but of him that calleth ; which is the same as to attribute it to the good pleasure of God, and not to any original goodness seen in him who was the object of the divine choice.
Paul, in writing to Timothy, contradistinguishes a calling, which is according to God's purpose and grace, from one which is according to works ; but if the purpose of God had been founded on the foreseen good works of those who are called, where would there be any room for this contrast? Here is the passage referred to: “Who hath saved and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but ac. cording to his own purpose and grace.” 2 Tim. i. 9. Some may say, “We grant it is not for any good works which men do before they come to Christ that they are elected; it is rather because they come to him, renouncing all their own works, and make choice of him for their Savior.” Still if our good choice were the thing which deter. mined the mind of God to call us with a holy calling, it is as much according to our works that we are called, as if some outward act of obedience had been made the reason of our election, But the divine Teacher, anticipating the distinction which some would make between good works and a good choice, let his disciples know they were not elected in view of their better choice, any more than on account of some other distinction of character. These re his words, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." • Your choice of me is subsequent to my choice of you; that is the effect, of which this is the cause.' And did he not make this representation on purpose to raise their views of his free grace, and to lower their high thoughts of them. selves?
It is evident that Paul was far from considering himself to have been comprehended in the number of the elect, on account of any peculiar goodness he had while remaining in unbelief. In his view, the greatness, rather than the smallness of his guilt, operated as a reason for his obtaining mercy. It is true; he spoke of his ignorance in unbelief, as that which prevented his sin from being unpardonable; but not as that which entitled him to pardon. On the contrary, he considered his deadly opposition to the religion of Christ as furnishing one of the reasons for his salvation; since it fitted him to be a striking monument of the richest grace. Hear his own words : “ For this cause I obtain. ed mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suf. fering, for a pattern to them that should hereafier believe on him to life everlasting.” 1 Tim. i. 16.
If the elect, while remaining in unregeneracy, were possessed of any good traits of character, which furnish the reasons for their being cho. sen unto salvation, why are they not known by these discriminating traits? Why are they distinguished from their fellow sinners by their future, rather than by their present character? Is it not because they have no traits of character, while remaining unregenerate, which make
am differ materially from other men ? If, therefore, there is occasion for their being distinguished at all, it must be done by applying to them names indicative of that character which, in the purpose of God, they are hereafter to possess.
Hence it is, that the scriptures even now denominate them the Lord's sheep, and people, and children. See John 1. 16. Ps. cx. 3. Acts xviii. 10. John xi. 52.
3. The eternity of God's choice of the elect, is among the arguments furnished by the scriptures to prove it to be unconditional. Paul, in that epistle which he wrote to the churches of Galatia, (and for the very purpose of establishing them in the doctrines of grace,) makes this interesting statement concerning himself: “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” Here the infinite blessing he had received, in being called into the kingdom of grace, is traced back to a purpose which God had concerning his salvation from the day of his birth. In this statement we seem to hear the apostle say, “ All the while I re. mained the enemy of God and the persecutor of his friends, he had his merciful eye upon me, and at length, in accordance with his benevo. lent purpose, he called me by his grace.” Jacob's being elected before he was born, and before he could have done anything to draw forth the complacency of his Maker, has already been adverted to; and I would now remark; that the account which the apostle gives concerning his being so early an object of the divine choice, is manifestly designed to establish this point, that the choice was not grounded on any good works of his, either done or foreseen.
Paul, in tracing the purpose of God concerning his own salvation up to his birth, and concerning that of Jacob to a still earlier period, ought not to be understood to say, that in either of these cases he had gone back to the farthest limit of the divine purpose. Concerning the saints at Ephesus, including himself, he says, “ According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.” Here the purpose of election is carried back to a period ante. cedent to the creation of the world; and it is manifestly done to prove that they were not chosen for the sake of any holiness foreseen in them, but for the purpose of imparting it to them. In that passage, in the first chapter of Paul's second epistle to Timothy, where God's purpose and grace are placed in opposition to our works as the procu. ring cause of our salvation, they are said to be given us in Christ before the world began. The scriptures do not speak of men as pardoned and justified before they are born into the world, nor before they are born of the Spirit; for they are pardoned and justified, considered as renovated characters, as penitent believers ; but since election relates to them as mere sinners, and implies the purpose of God to bring them into conformity to himself, it is with propriety represented as being antecedent both to their spiritual and natural birth, and even to the creation of the world.
I have now made a brief statement of what appears to me a plain scriptural account of the doctrine under consideration. It has already been suggested, that this doctrine has been considered as one which is peculiarly difficult to be understood : but I am not able to see wherein this peculiar difficulty consists. That it does more than some other doctrines to draw forth opposition from our selfish hearts, will not be
disputed. But if it be meant, that the doctrine is inexplicable, or that its tendency is to destroy the other doctrines of the gospel, it is far from being true.
The two different schemes of election, namely, the conditional and the unconditional, I will now place before the reader, by a familiar illustration. We will suppose two houses of stone are to be erected, and the plan of each is laid down. To build one of them, the sur. rounding country is searched to find stones of such a size, figure, and smoothness, as will fit into the walls. To build the other, the work. men are sent directly to the mountains to dig them out of the quarry. Their shape and smoothness are not the cause of their being selected; since they are to receive their figure and polish from the hand of the workmen, after the selection is made. The first of these buildings will illustrate that scheme of the doctrine, which makes the choice of God depend on good moral qualities foreseen in the elect: the other illustrates that view of the doctrine which has been given in the preceding pages.
may be thought by some, that the word foreknowledge, which is used more than once in relation to this subject, tends to give support to an eleetion which is conditional. Paul says, “ Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." And Peter says, “ Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.” It is manifest, however, that neither of these apostles speaks concerning God's foreknowledge of the elect, as though it were based on any good. ness discovered in them. Paul speaks of those whom God foreknew, as still needing to be predestinated to a conformity to the image of his Son. And Peter represents such as were elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, as being brought to obedience by the sanctification of the Spirit. This representation of Peter agrees with what Paul writes to the Thessalonians, when he tells them, God had from the beginning chosen them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. As they were chosen to salvation, so the sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth, as a preparation for the enjoyment of that salvation, were comprehended in the divine purpose concerning them. We have seen a number of pass. ages where the terms election, predestination, and purpose, are mani. festly introduced with an express design to exclude any original good. ness from being considered as the cause why some are chosen to salvation in distinction from others. But I presume no passage can be found where God's foreknowledge of the salvation of men is declared to be built on any such original differences of character.
If foreknowledge be considered as a distinct thing from predestination, and yet preceding it in the order of nature, it must be understood as synonymous with that knowledge or wisdom which God employs in selecting the objects of his choice, the monuments of his grace. His choice of the elect, though not regulated by their goodness, is not made without the exercise of the most consummate wisdom and prudence. See Eph. i. 8. The glory of the divine name, and the good of the moral system, are always consulted. The word foreknowledge, as it is used in these passages, may mean the same as purpose. When Paul says, “ Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son,” he may be understood to use the word foreknowledge, for God's general purpose to save the elect ; and predestinate, for his special purpose to prepare them for that salvation, by bringing them into a spiritual likeness to their divine Head.
It is objected against the doctrine of election, that it necessarily im. plies, as its counterpart, the doctrine of reprobation. It is true that the election of some, in distinction from their fellows, must imply the nonelection or reprobation of the rest. So the conversion of a particular part of mankind by the Spirit of God, supposes the other part not to receive the favor of converting grace. God has an end to answer by the vessels of mercy prepared unto glory; also by the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and the ultimate end is the same in both cases, namely, the display of his holy character, to the benefit of the intelli. gent universe. They who are not included in the election of grace, were not left out through ill will or indifference. An infinite regard to the interests of an extensive and everlasting kingdom led to this result. Mysterious as it may seem, the only wise God saw it would be best that the Stone, which he should lay in Zion for a foundation, should also be " a stone of stumbling and rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Pet. ii. 8.
This Article so entirely coalesces with the one we last considered, that some may think it not distinguishable from it. The distinction is merely this; sovereign grace, in renewing the hearts of men, repre. sents God as now making a difference in their character, according to his good pleasure ; whereas predestination carries this matter back to eteraity, and shows us that the difference, which we see him now ma. king by his special grace, is one he always intended to make.
Pre. destination informs us, that those whom God now calls by his grace, are “called according to his purpose.” Once grant, it is by the grace of God that some sioners, in distinction from others, become believers, and you must admit the doctrine of personal election. If it is God who has begotten us, it must be of his own will that he begat us; for he could not do it without an intention. What could be more absurd than to say, God has given to a certain man (Saul of Tarsus, for ex. ample) a new heart; but he did it without intending it—or at least, without an intention of giving it to him in distinction from any other man? If God intends to give a new heart at the moment when he does it, he must have always had the intention; else there is a new purpose in bis mind, and he is not unchangeable. But we are assured that “ the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Ps. xxxiii. 11.
If we can see it consistent for God at the present time to have mercy on one sinner and harden another, to regenerate one and leave another uregenerated, there need be no difficulty with the doctrine of election, which implies no more than this; that the difference which is now